The great business class bake off – Qatar v BA v Emirates

Over a four week period recently I flew Qatar Airways, Emirates and British Airways in business class on a flight which included a main meal.

I thought it would be a bit of fun to compare the three meals.  Did British Airways have the best business class food or not?

(You cannot use this exercise to draw serious conclusions about the food quality on any of the airlines, especially as my food choices are biased towards fish and poultry.  Certain themes do seem to come through though.)

Let’s jump straight in:

Round 1 – amuse bouche

This is a clear win for Qatar Airways as neither Emirates or British Airways served one!  Here is the Qatar amuse bouche of Indian spiced lobster:

Qatar Airways 777 amuse bouche

Round 2 – appetiser

Qatar served up a smoked chicken terrine with pear chutney (2 other options):

Qatar Airways 777 appetiser

British Airways offered me a bocconcini mozzarella and slow-roasted cherry tomatoes with basil dressing (1 other option).  It was served as pictured, ie tipped to one side of the plate!

Club World appetiser

Emirates gave me seared tuna with marinated asparagus and caper vinaigrette sauce (three other options):

Emirates appetiser

I judged Emirates as the winner of this round and I think the photos back me up.

Round 3 – main course

Qatar really hit its stride here with arabic spiced monkfish with sayadiah rice (2 other options).  As I wrote in my original trip report “the mild spiciness of the monkfish overcame the dulling sensation that your taste buds experience in flight to ensure that the food did still deliver a kick.  It also came with a selection of bread which did actually taste and feel like bread!”.

Qatar Airways 777 main course

BA’s Club World had a broader range with four options.  I went with North Atlantic cod with a saffron and sultana sauce, vegetable tagine and couscous.  Yet again, presentation lets BA down in a big way:

British Airways Club World main course

Emirates also had four options.  I went with roast chicken dressed with chicken jus lie, served with red pepper, courgette, yellow squash and oregano potatoes.  It wasn’t bad but Qatar had an edge.

Emirates business class main

Qatar wins the main course round.

Round 4 – dessert

To be honest, none of the three airlines really went for it here. In general there was just one ‘proper’ option plus fruit, ice cream, cheese etc.

Qatar came up with cardamom panna cotta with rhubarb compote (two other options of fruit and ice cream):

Qatar Airways 777 dessert

British Airways had four options – cheese, fruit, ice cream and the chocolate and orange Mogador with orange sauce which is what I went with:

British Airways Club World dessert

Finally, Emirates had four options – cheese, fruit, chocolate fudge cake and mascarpone mousse with mango compote garnished with fresh berries:

Emirates business class dessert

I am going to judge this round a tie.  The Qatar dessert had more ‘going on’ and was technically the most accomplished but the BA Club World option had a satisfying bite from the orange sauce.

The winner

Based purely on the three meals above, I will give Qatar Airways the prize for ‘best meal’.  There was not a dull note anywhere.  Emirates comes in 2nd place.

British Airways is third, let down by poor presentation and, frankly, clear evidence that less money has been spent and ‘easy options’ (in terms of ability to serve) taken.  Take a look at the carrots in that Qatar main course – you are never going to see that on British Airways, even in First Class.

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  1. It really is not fair if you to compare club world with genuine business class products on any level let alone the food. On the phone those pictures of BA simply look like slip. I know that’s extreme and it’s not but it looks awful. The other looked great and I can tell you that had you compared with AA or CX of QF the outcome would have been the same.

  2. The BA main course looks like a Y meal in a ceramic dish!

  3. Oscarthegrouch says:

    Absolutely, it’s not fair to compare club world to the other two business class products, or indeed any other business class product. BA are perfect, we all know that.

    It’s this attitude that keeps them in the dark ages btw.

  4. The BA main course looks like the frozen microwave dishes that I ate in the 80s, oooh how retro!!

    BA, a national airline to be proud of, puts a lump in your throat (in more ways than one).

  5. Great post. And I agree: Qatar offers the best food, with British Airways far behind the 2 Middle East carriers when it comes to gastronomy. But I still think there are airlines out there that offer more delicious food at 30 000 feet. As a matter of fact, I published a post today on my blog about the top 10 airlines with the best onboard food: (EDIT: deleted for reasons below!) You agree with the winner? 🙂

    • Oscar the grouch says:

      Ohhh, goodie, I’m flying OS in May.
      Came home on EY last week, and my meal was splendid, I also had the fish and chips of the snack menu, which was lovely.
      Agree on swiss and SQ too, felt a bit let down by TK though.

    • Lady London says:

      Just curious about your post that includes the link to your own blog Jan. What’s the etiquette of posting a link to your own blog, on someone else’s blog? Is that something you just do? or is there a kind of etiquette of checking with the person whose blog it is?

      • @LadyLondon Not sure if any etiquette exists. I sometimes post a link to my blog in another blog’s comment’s section when I feel its appropriate and in line with the blogger’s post. People do it all the time on my blog as well. The blog’s owner has always the last word: he or she can delete comments with (or without) links.

      • Lady London(3:44 pm):

        You are right to question the posting- Jan(8:11 am)- I’m with you on this.

        Jan’s view is – ‘Not sure if any etiquette exists’.

        I’ve had a look at the link and see it as an unnecessary diversion.

        • Lady London says:

          Hi Worzel
          I’ve found all the comments on the question I raised very helpful That included Rob’s own on this. Jan’s blog is kind of personal I guess. It does not include all airlines that normally come up on such lists such as Thai Airways. Could be Jan hasn’t flown on some of them. Some of Jan’s text does look to have been lifted out of each airline’s own publicity texts too. I guess there’s nothing like the personal approach of Raffles that we all appreciate so much. Thanks for the Bake-off Raffles.

    • According to your blog the post wasnt today but was Nov 24.

      What’s the basis for the article? Reason I ask is that the flight details and date for the flights you list and/or review doesn’t match up to the food reviews. Its always good for a reader to know what your review/list is based on, i.e. personal experience or some other way?

      • @CV3V Thank for picking up that mistake. I corrected the date. Everything I publish on my blog is solely based on and a reflection of my own experience (I run the blog purely as a hobby). And when it comes to taste buds, that is very subjective of course. Not sure what you mean about the discordance between the flight details, flight dates (which are not same as the dates that I post the review), and/or food review. The list of my favorite top 10 airlines for food is based on having flown most of them multiple times. And while I always tend to fly oneworld (since I am an oneworld emerald member, despite flying out all the time from a Star Alliance hub), it is hard to beat Singapore and especially Austrian when it comes to food. And while I love British Airways, their food in Club World can be a hit or miss (most of the time, it’s a shame). Sorry for any mistakes (English is not my native language)!

  6. Kathy H says:

    My recent experience of BA Club World food was basically dreadful – badly served, overcooked and fairly tasteless. The afternoon tea was a joke, a small cellophane packet with three finger sandwiches and one scone with jar of jam and pot clotted cream. Having flown Qatar and Emirates too their meals are so much better in every way.

    • Head for Points says:

      I got the afternoon tea as well! However, there is a twist here. If you fly to Dubai on BA during the day, you will get the dodgy afternoon tea as a 2nd meal. On Emirates, though, there is no 2nd meal (although there are lots of canapés available in the bar on the A380s).

      • EK serve an afternoon tea as the second meal on DXB-LHR/LGW on the later day flights (2/3pm) as well as some light hot options. These flights arrive early evening and the crew told me that feedback was that by the time people got home they were hungry, so they started offering a second meal.

    • And if you’re unlucky the fat bloke in seat 64J will dip his hand into the basket and take two scones, and you in 64K will have none.

  7. Simon85 says:

    On a Club World flight to Newark last month, BA served me up a plate of slop that was supposed to be Beef Casserole. It was basically an economy meal on a plate, and was overheated so I burnt my mouth on it.

    First Class on the return flight from Chicago was a different matter however, the food was excellent.

  8. Euflyer Tom says:

    If anyone out there fancies seeking out “the world’s worst airline food”, I can assure you that you need look no further than Air Malta. You will go running back to BA begging forgiveness, I promise you.

    Indeed, when my wife was in the national hospital in Malta having our first baby, I thought to myself “I recognise this” when the predictably awful food came along. Sure enough, the hospital food and Air Malta food are from exactly the same supplier.

    To end on a positive note, Etihad is the most impressive biz class food I’ve ever had.

    • Raffles says:

      I am doing Etihad F and J in January and will report back!

      • Euflyer Tom says:

        Bear in mind my designated “death row last meal” is the Pizza Hut deep pan Hawaiian, so my culinary recommendations are to be viewed accordingly.

        • Gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

          Really. I mean REALLY?
          We love KMs club class menus. Tastier than BA’s offering on the same route. Especially live the beef strips. So tasty.

  9. ankomonkey says:

    I like these posts. From what’s been shared in the article I rate Qatar as overall winner too. But that Emirates tuna looks damn good! Anyone want to pitch a cooking show competition between airlines to a TV company with me? It’s free advertising for the airlines so surely they’d be all over it. Second series is hotels… Third series is chains associated with celebrity chefs – my money is on the winning dish for this one being the Worral-Thompson “pulled pork” – the pork is pulled out from under his jumper when the supermarket security guard questions him…

  10. gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

    I am obviously the target audience for BA, as I prefer their options.
    That said, I would always avoid fish if possible. A dodgy fish dish on a internal Russian flight ended with me exploding from both ends when I arrived at my wife’s best friend’s apartment.
    Quite an entrance (or exit).

  11. Yes, that should work on top – I don’t see why not, because you only ask them for the refer a friend points after you have received your card.

    • Indeed – I think I got the card when there was just 1000 points on offer and did the RAF for another 1000. My Tesco receipts are currently showing 2000 TPF points in my balance so presuming both offers have been awarded!

  12. I did 4 QR sectors in Nov in Business. The service was exceptional on three of the flights (the fourth was a bad crew which can happen anywhere) and the soft offering (amenities, food, beverage) was light years ahead of BA.

    If it wasn’t for the need to use some 2-4-1’s over the coming 24mths then my time flying BA long haul would have ended already. It is not the worse product out there, but it is far from the best when viewed objectively.

    P.S. I also had the Monk Fish and would do so again just for the carrots.

    • i din four QR sectors in October. It was ahead of BA in every aspect except the sloped seat on the A330 for the first leg.

      They managed to get the bread to both taste nice and not dry out after fifteen seconds.

  13. James67 says:

    I share most of these sentiments about BA food. My last few CW meals have been simply awful. They included baby pink chicken which cabin crew did their best to persuade me was safe to eat after I complained. Safe it may have been, but palatable no. Reality and picture are akin to the slop they now dish up in the lounge. Food on Air Asia is even superior in my view. My own favourite business class food is on Finnair; doesn’t get very good reviews but I find their emphasis on lighter salad- and fish- based meals more suited to flying longhaul than the heavy stodge many airlines serve up. Also like reindeer so that may influence my preference. Amongst other airlines I have particularly enjoyed the curries on Sri Lankan and on Thais Indian subcontinent flights. Thai also has served some very nice fresh and light desserts. Apart from BA, I have been disapoited with SQ s BTC; eight flights with them and so far nothing to write home about. The positive reports on Swiss food too also amazes me. I have found their maincourses and the paltry small moose-like desserts they invariably offer to be totally uninspiring. All that said, my ultimate preference is to avoid the food altogether; on overnight flights I usually eat before boarding and then just get to sleep asap.

    • As someone who likes reindeer I would have thought you like a bit of Moose as well…probably only available on AC though.

  14. I’ve never been in CW (always waited for availability in First on long-haul redemptions) but I’ve got a trip to Calgary coming up, on a companion voucher. Sadly there is no first cabin, so I get my first taste of CW. Everything I’ve read about CW is making me wonder if I shouldn’t just cancel, and pay cash for WT+. That food looks terrible, as do the seats. What the hell are they playing at, trying to sell a premium cabin with 2-3-2 setup?!

    For reward flights, it has to be worth spending the extra avios to go first (where the food is undeniably good) – if only because of the lack of the seat booking charge. The cost of reserving seats for the two of us in CW is a staggering £300. Ryanair must be looking on in admiration at BA’s front. (It was £280 a few days ago – looks like BA have pushed up the price again). It means the fees and fares for booking a return flight in CW is about £750 per person. By the time you factor in £150 for the companion voucher and the ‘cost’ of 100,000 avios then even with a companion voucher, it doesn’t seem like a great deal. I’ve got one more companion voucher to use up, but after that It’ll be European reward savers in economy to burn through my remaining avios before concentrating on other schemes.

    • In 2012 we flew to Montreal CW and back from Toronto First. It was an old 747, but we could hardly tell the difference except for more service and better food. If we had paid we would have been very disappointed.

    • Well, do you want a flat bed or not? The food is basically the same in CW and WTP.
      When the other option is AC, BA looks amazing.

      • Yes, I want a flat bed, but I want that as part of a genuine business class product. CW looks like a prem economy cabin with the (admittedly significant) benefit of lie-flat beds.

        • ….and the significant disadvantage of having to climb over your neighbour to get to the isle. 2-3-2 is just not a very good idea.

  15. Was about to ditch Etihad to try Club World (with their current sale) for the first time this Christmas, till I’ve read this. Didn’t know CW is that bad. I thought Etihad’s food in J is a hit and miss (but generally is good), but it seems BA is even worse..Thanks for posting.

  16. Great guys. Sitting here in MIA awaiting the BA208 home in CW. The lounge here is rubbish, a ham sandwich is the best that can be mustered although there is no mustard!
    What joys I have ahead

    • Lady London says:

      Sympathise with you about the mustard! I always try to travel with a little tube of English mustard in my suitcase. It works with lots of other places’ foods.

      Recently I saw somewhere that Nigella Lawson does too! Now if I could just have her looks too… !

      • Although for those of us that have mustard I’d much prefer sandwiches didn’t have it already smeared all over them! Agree they should have it available as an optional extra though!

  17. Just tried the latest BA culinary delight on a Cityflyer flight to Zurich.
    Plain couscous with peas and sweetcorn!
    Not only tasteless, but also impossible to eat on a plane without spilling it all over yourself!
    Bring back the crisps!